In 2023, the Middle East is pivoting to EVs
In between COP27 in Egypt last November and the climate conference’s next edition in the UAE at the close of 2023, this is a crucial year for green mobility in the Middle East. The three regional superpowers are all focusing on EV manufacturing. No matter who eventually takes the lead, it seems 2023 is the year in which the Middle East finally pivots to EVs.
In a region famously overflowing with oil (and cheap fuel), you’d think ‘green mobility’ would be low on the priorities list. But - perhaps spurred on by the locally-held climate conferences bookending this year – Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt are stepping up efforts to get a domestic EV manufacturing industry off the ground.
Saudi Arabia today has no domestic car manufacturing industry. The country is investing huge amounts of money, not just to change that, but to take the regional lead – specifically in terms of EV production. The Saudis are betting on two horses – so to speak:
- They’ve invested $1 billion in EV manufacturer Lucid, which plans to set up production in the country soon.
- They’ve launched a home-grown EV brand, called Ceer – a joint venture between the Saudi Public Investment Fund and Chinese manufacturing group Foxconn. Ceer, which will use BMW technology, aims to design, manufacture and sell sedans and SUVs across the entire Middle East.
Both will need to start producing soon if KSA is to reach its goal of rolling out 150,000 EVs by 2026. The Saudis are also rolling out generous subsidies for EV purchases, and are pushing for green-energy buses.
However, the push for domestic electrification is not wholly ‘green’: “By building EVs locally, (the Saudis) can save the oil and export it to the external market”, the Voice of America quoted Joseph Salem, lead Travel & Transport partner at Arthur D. Little in Riyadh.
Already the world’s 13th automotive manufacturing country in terms of volume, Turkey is well-placed to pivot towards EV production – not just thanks to the presence of various global OEMs (such as Toyota, Ford, Hyundai, Renault and Fiat), who may invest in EV manufacturing in country; but also thanks to home-grown talent such as Togg, a Turkish group aiming to produce 175,000 midsize SUVs a year.
EVs are already being co-produced in Turkey by the way, by Ford Otosan, a joint-venture between Ford and Koç, which produces the E-Transit cargo van, to which will be added the E-Transit Custom this year. Karsan, meanwhile, is producing (and exporting) electric minibuses and buses.
In the 1960s, Egypt tried – and failed – to set up a home-grown automotive manufacturing industry. (The ‘Ramses’ car factory produced only 5 to 6 vehicles a day, and they were notorious for being unreliable).
Nevertheless, President Al-Sissi said in early 2022 he wants to see EVs produced in country by 2023. And it looks like he will be getting his wish. From the end of this year, GM and Al Mansour Automotive will produce the Cadillac Lyric, an all-electric SUV, in Egypt. GM Middle East, by the way, has recently announced that it plans to launch 13 all-new EVs in the region. Meanwhile, Al-Nasr Automotive, a company owned by the Egyptian army, is in discussion for a partnership with various Chinese OEMs.
In terms of infrastructure, COP27 proved a much-needed boost. Prior to the climate conference, all of Egypt had just 440 charging points. In the run-up to the event, the network was expanded considerably, notably with DC fast-charging stations – powered by a huge solar park in Aswan, southern Egypt. A wider, denser network should help increase the number of EVs on Egyptian roads to 7,000 in 2023.